Letters from the West

Forest Service plans major logging, fire project near Banks

The Forest Service is preparing to treat 1,600 acres in the Boise National Forest to get ahead of insects and disease using fast-track environmental review approved under the 2014 Farm Bill.

Boise Forest Supervisor Cecilia Seesholtz has approved logging and burning within the Williams Creek Project area to increase forest resiliency on land west of Idaho 55 in Valley County, just north of Banks. The project was within one of 50 landscapes the Idaho Department of Lands identified on behalf of Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, submitted in a request to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

The special provisions allow the Forest Service to study only the one alternative that had been developed with local involvement instead of a range of alternatives. The Williams Creek project will improve wildlife habitat and promote the development of large trees such as ponderosa pine and western larch along with increasing forest resiliency.

The Forest Service predicts 11.5 million board feet of wood would be logged, which would provide jobs.

“This decision utilizes the new authority and environmental review process for a collaborative restoration project in an insect and disease landscape treatment area,” Seesholtz said. “Without remediation, risk rating information predicted that at least 25 percent of the forest within this project area would die over a 15-year time frame due to insects and disease.”

Project work could begin as early as this summer.